Alabama Senate Gaming Bill Vote Delayed Until After Break

Alabama Senate Gaming Bill Vote Delayed Until After Break
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The Alabama Senate on Thursday began debating a bill to expand gaming in the state, but pushed a vote off until after a legislative break.

State senators were considering SB 214 from Sen. Del Marsh that would bring a lottery, casinos and sports betting to Alabama. Some lawmakers are in favor of the five proposed casino locations, while others want more gambling locations, according to the Associated Press.

Marsh said he will not seek a vote until lawmakers return from next week’s legislative break, the AP reported.

SB 214 would establish a state lottery and allow for five casinos that could offer table games, sports betting and slot machines. Four of the casinos would be located at existing dog tracks, while the fifth location would be operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in north Alabama, according to AP.

If passed, the proposal would also encourage the governor to work with the Porch Band, the only federally recognized Native American tribe in the state, for a compact involving their three other sites that currently offer electronic bingo machines.

Debate on Thursday in the Senate revolved around where casinos would be, according to AP. Marsh said he’s looking to add up to two additional sites to the bill, but warned that a gambling bill that allowed numerous large casinos was unlikely to get approved by the voters.

For the bill to pass, it must be approved by a three-fifths majority of each chamber of the Alabama Legislature, then by a majority of citizens in a statewide referendum.

Alabama is just one of five states without a state lottery. The Legislative Services Agency projected a lottery in Alabama would generate between $194 million to $279 million annually for college scholarships. It also projected the casinos would earn $260 million to $393 million annually from the 20% tax on gaming revenues, according to AP.

The state last voted on a lottery in 1999 and defeated the proposal.

Some neighboring states already have legal sports betting. Tennessee launched its all-mobile market on Nov. 1 and has seen about $312 million wagered in the first two months, one of the best starts for any state with legal sports betting. Mississippi has sports betting in its riverboat and land-based casinos, but no mobile.

There has also been a sports betting bill introduced in the Alabama House. HB 161 is currently in committee.

Governor Interested in Gambling Debate

In December, Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy issued a report that estimated Alabama could raise between $510 million and $710 million from having a lottery, casinos, and sports betting, according to al.com. Ivey appointed the study group in February 2020 to gather information about expanded legal gambling in the state.

“The potential to act on gambling is an opportunity that cannot be accomplished solely by a governor or solely by the Legislature,” Ivey said in a news release when the report was released. “It is incumbent on us to work together to provide the citizens of Alabama their opportunity to determine the future of gambling in Alabama. I continue to maintain the final say on gambling belongs to the people.”

The group found that gambling would work in Alabama with the advantages outweighing the disadvantages and that a state authority would be needed to oversee gaming, according to al.com.

Ivey mentioned the work of the study group in her State of the State address this month and said she looked forward to working with the legislature on getting the issue in front of voters.

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